Gaborone - A senior SADC official says gender-based violence (GBV) has emerged as one of the biggest threats to peace in Southern Africa.
At a GBV workshop for Botswana’s law enforcement officers, SADC Director of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation Jorge Cardoso said a study showed that the most prevalent form of violence in the region was gender-based.
He said the 2018 Regional Comprehensive Study on Gender-Based Violence indicated that 26,8 percent of respondents had experienced some form of GBV.
Cardoso said such statistics underscored the importance of supporting member states’ efforts to eliminate GBV through capacity building of frontline officers, legislation development and harmonisation, data collection and strengthening referral mechanisms.
“The workshop is timely for Botswana as the country has realised an upsurge of GBV cases in the last six months. Hence there is need for a multi stakeholder approach that involves various players at different levels of the society,” he said.
In neighbouring Namibia, recent protests against the rise in GBV saw the government getting tougher on the problem by instituting a raft of measures to improve prosecution of cases, paving way for punitive sentences for convicts, and improving support for victims, among others.
GBV is also of growing concern in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and authorities there are also doubling down on prevention, prosecution and victim support.
European Union Ambassador to Botswana Jan Sadek told the Botswana GBV workshop that, “We have seen increased reports on GBV around the globe, and unfortunately Botswana is no exception. The lockdowns affected social patterns and family life. Botswana like many countries in Africa and the rest of the world registers a lot of GBV cases in a normal year. It is one of the most common yet unacknowledged and serious human rights violation in the SADC region.”
He said left unaddressed, GBV posed a serious threat to “efforts to ensure peace and security, reduce poverty and to achieve the sustainable development goals”.
Botswana Police Commissioner Keabetswe Makgophe cases of sexual violence, especially involving minors, appeared to have risen during the COVID-19 lockdown.
He went on: “After realising the disparities that existed amongst different stations in handling GBV cases, the BPS developed Standard Operating Procedures as a standard tool for dealing with GBV reports. Plans are in place to establish a dedicated Gender and Child Protection Unit, which will deal with among others domestic violence and sexual offences relating to children.”